Putin staged an elaborate election charade. So why did some Western media outlets play along?

Putin staged an elaborate election charade. So why did some Western media outlets play along?

Anne Applebaum writes:

There was no election in Russia last weekend. There was no campaign. There were no debates, which was unsurprising, because no issues could be debated. Above all, there were no real candidates, bar one: the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, the man who has just started his fifth, unconstitutional term in office.

Russians did line up at polling stations, but these were not actually polling stations. They were props in an elaborate piece of political theater, a months-long exercise in the projection of power and brutality. While that exercise unfolded, Putin’s only significant political opponent, Alexei Navalny, died under mysterious circumstances in a prison north of the Arctic Circle. Two Russian presidential candidates collected the requisite number of signatures to stand, both said they opposed the war in Ukraine, and both were removed from the ballot. Three practically unknown people were allowed to remain on the ballot, but they did not criticize Putin and did not oppose him in any way. One of them declared that he hoped Putin would win. In Russian-occupied Ukraine, men in balaclavas forced people to vote at gunpoint.

Some Western media nevertheless covered this orchestrated drama as if it really were an election. Reporters interviewed voters, cited “exit polls,” even commented on the “results,” as if these things mean anything in a country whose leadership lies openly about everything: economic statistics, war casualties, Russian history. Reuters ran a headline declaring Putin had won “in a landslide.” The earnest coverage was exactly what Putin hoped he would get. He knows, after all, that he is an illegitimate leader, and he knows that he abandoned the Russian constitution. This non-election was his messaging exercise, designed to show Russians, and the rest of the world, that he intends to stay in power anyway, illegally. He especially needs the foreign press, which is widely and frequently quoted inside Russia, to help him demoralize his internal opposition and frighten external opponents. Foreign recognition gives him the legitimacy he craves. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.